Articles

Click the articles below to learn about the events, conversations, and developments taking place in the West of England as narrated by the regional Scale up Enabler.

The team from WOW Labs ran a free workshop at the Engine Shed on 19 Sep, for those who couldn’t make it, this is what you missed: There are many often unchallenged assumptions about the way we manage teams: that we are good judges of people, their potential and their performance; that people are motivated to perform only by fear or greed; that a ping pong table in the office will help attract and retain great people (it doesn’t!).

Last week on Thursday 19th September, I made a fleeting visit to Manchester for an Investor Forum hosted by UKBAA, Creative England, BFI, and GC Angels. The event focused on 'Investing in Screen Based businesses' and was an opportunity to hear from some investors and founders about the nuances, similarities, and opportunities of investing in the creative industries.

On Thursday 12th September, Engine Shed hosted the latest in the series of Quarterly Investment Briefing events. We welcomed c. 35 investors and enablers of investment to network, share and learn. The goal of this regular event is to support the community of investors and enablers of investment and to raise the profile of investment opportunities in the West of England.

Office space has been one of the hottest topics throughout my work as Scaleup Enabler for the West of England. If you have followed the story so far, you'll know that in 2016 Bristol was at a 20 year low as far as office space availability is concerned. We saw very full incubators and office spaces across the city region, and in Bath too, with nowhere for the largest companies to move to and a resulting traffic jam of smaller companies unable to move in in their wake.

In June 2017 I began work for Engine Shed as Scaleup Enabler for the West of England. The role was initially a 12-month experiment funded by Business West, The University of Bristol, Engine Shed and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA)/Growth Hub. At the end of the first year, my role was made permanent and evolved to include additional responsibility as an Associate Director for Engine Shed in addition to the scaleup agenda funded by WECA and Engine Shed. And now, a few months into the third year of this work, it is all change again - read on to find out more.

In August 2019, the Scaleup Generator introduced a regular newsletter to keep you updated with the latest scaleup news. Read on to find out what's included and how to sign up.

On Thursday 30th May 2019 over 70 investors and facilitators of investment gathered at the Engine Shed for the sixth in a series of Quarterly Investment Briefing events. These events are designed and run by Engine Shed to bring the investment community together to network, share and learn – with an equal emphasis on time for networking as there is on the content provided at the event.

In my role as Scaleup Enabler for the West of England, one of my pet topics has been office space availability, affordability and suitability for fast growth companies. When I first started exploring the barriers to growth in the region in June 2017, office space was the most mentioned challenge. Approximately 90% of the people that I spoke to – whether individual founders/business leaders or managers of co-working and grow on space would explain that the lack of space was negatively impacting growth, compounded no doubt by other barriers such as availability of suitable staff and of access to investment.

On Wednesday 20th March Engine Shed provided a home for an event organised by our friends at the West of England Growth Hub. In a great example of collaboration, the Growth Hub team took on the vision and event design that I created and provided the capacity and funds to deliver it. In a pleasing turn of events, that meant that I could sit in the audience and absorb the content – and share a few choice bits with you today.

Are you an investor looking for your next deal? Or perhaps you're an entrepreneur keen to explore options for equity funding? There are a bunch of events coming up in 2019 and this blog gives you the lowdown.

On Wednesday 6th March, I hosted the latest Quarterly Investment Briefing - an opportunity for investors and facilitators of investment to network, share and learn on the topic of angel investment.

The challenge of finding great employees is one which is felt acutely by growing companies across the region. There are a fabulous range of organisations working hard to equip young people with the skills they need to join our workforce, whether vocational or academic, and some alternatives to the mainstream too. I have mapped some of the services and organisations that work in this area, and those facilitating recruitment on the Scaleup Support Map and I’m keen to add more.

In my work as Scaleup Enabler for the West of England since June 2017, one of the most frequently mentioned topics is that of ‘regional investment activity’. Urban myth has it that it takes three times longer to raise investment in the South West than it does in London. Whether funds, angel syndicates or VCs, everyone is keen to learn about who is most active and where to find support. Consequently, I spend a fair amount of my enabling time mapping and exploring as much intel. as I can find.

On Thursday 31st January we welcomed 60 colleagues from fast-growth companies and those supporting fast-growth companies, to Engine Shed for our latest Scaleup Briefing event. This series of events was kicked off in October 2017 by Scaleup Enabler Briony Phillips and has covered topics ranging from ‘keeping people happy’ (organisational culture) to ‘raising a million pounds or more’ (access to investment).

The Enterprise Europe Network is a great asset for any company planning or hoping to increase their international presence and work. I sat down with Gabriella Cox in 2018 to discuss what support EEN can offer to scaling companies that are growing quickly in the West of England.

One of the most significant and unrealised opportunities for the Scale up companies that I speak to is in fact one which is often not known to them: the potential positive impact of having a Non Executive Director involved in their business. This article explains the process of engaging a Non Exec Director and includes a number of resources and support services to help companies and individuals get ahead.

On Thursday 6th December Engine Shed hosted the final Quarterly Investment Briefing for the year at Framework on King Street in Bristol. A gathering of over 30 investors and colleagues came together for the fourth time this year to share, learn and network. This short blog shares insights into what we discussed and what's happening next year.

Today, Wednesday 21st November 2018 I was lucky enough to attend the BVCA (British Venture Capital Association) Forum event focused on Series A investment raises because, as their tagline said ‘scaling up is never easy.’

On Monday 26th November, Rod Beer led a lunch and learn session to share ‘top tips for angel investment’ with a group of local investors. The content was both reassuring and challenging for the group, and the conversation certainly suggested that there’s a call for more angel syndicates/groups locally and a need to coordinate dealflow and opportunities more effectively.

On Thursday 15th November, Briony Phillips (Scale up Enabler for the West of England) hosted a Scale up Briefing at Engine Shed, Bristol to explore how ‘keeping people happy’ can be key to organisational growth. This blog provides an overview of what was discussed, shares a link to the slides and suggests some next steps if this is an area that interests you.

Today marks the announcement of a brand new scale up programme for the West of England run by the University of West of England. This is great news for fast growth companies and so this article highlights four local scale up programmes to help scale up founders find the support that's right for them.

On Tuesday 13th November the ScaleUp Institute hosted their Annual Review - an opportunity to learn from the best in the scaleup ecosystem and discover insights about this community of fast growth, forward-thinking companies and their support infrastructure. In this run-down the event, our West of England Scale up Enabler shares her eight most interesting observations from the event and the report.

It’s been a little too long since my last regular Scale up Enabler update so here I am, making up for lost time and sharing the latest news in West of England scale up land. For those of you that missed the memo, in June 2018 Engine Shed made the role permanent, with some initial support from WECA (The West of England Combined Authority). This marked the start of a new era in which I work 50% on all things scale up (more on that later) and 50% as Associate Director for Engine Shed.

‘People powered investment’ provided the theme for the third Quarterly Investment Briefing. At the event over 30 active or potentially active investors, managers of investors and enablers of investment activity gathered to hear from a couple of speakers and to share, learn and network. Read on to find out what we talked about.

You’re an Entrepreneur who knows your business better than anyone; you understand your market, your customer and your business potential. You’re working harder than ever, managing ever changing scenarios, and often covering sales, contract negotiations, marketing, IT and HR to get everything done. It seems the more successful you are, the more there is to do. Sound familiar?

Scale Up 101

6th August 2018

The notion of a 'scale up' is a relatively new one - a phrase which was first coined in 2014 and which is increasingly common. But how can you help others understand?

Engine Shed has hosted a series of events since the arrival of the Scale up Enabler in June 2017. This blog explains the topics we've covered so far and what we have planned for the future.

In March 2018, Engine Shed launched a new initiative to help invigorate the investment ecosystem in the West of England. This series of events and newsletters are designed to enable investors to share, learn and network more effectively.

It's that time of year again when the Scale up Institute ask all scale up/fast growth founders to complete their annual survey. Please take 15 minutes to help put the West of England on the map with respect to how many scale ups are here, how engaged they are and what support exists for them (and where the gaps are).

As the 12 month Scale up Enabler experiment comes to an end, we are committed to continuing support for scale up companies, and to supporting and enabling those organisations across the ecosystem who work to support scale ups. Read on to find out more about our future plans.

Yesterday we hosted a Quarterly Investment Briefing event here at Engine Shed. The session was the second in a series of four for the year and focused on the broad theme of Regional Investment - both raising money in the region, and investing from the region. For the uninitiated, the Quarterly Investment Briefing is a gathering solely of investors designed to support networking, learning and sharing across the West of England (and beyond) with the ultimate goal of invigorating the investment ecosystem.

On Thursday 3rd May, Engine Shed hosted an exclusive dinner in Brunel’s Board Room to discuss the opportunities for and potential impact of a regional investment fund. Using our position as an ‘honest broker’ in the region, we brought together investment focused stakeholders from three key groups – public sector, private sector and owners of nascent fund propositions for the region.

What exactly is a scale up company and how useful is the definition any way?

On Thursday 24th April, Rod Beer (Community Director at the UKBAA) led a 2-hour workshop to help attendees become ‘effective investors’ – specifically for existing and budding angel investors. Rod provided a useful overview of the UKBAA, the UK Business Angels Association to the uninitiated, and described it as the trade body for early stage investing.

In this blog I answer some important questions including what exactly is a Quarterly Investment Briefing and what happened at the inaugural event?

Lately I have turned my desktop research skills (and many conversations with regional scale-up supporters) into a summary of the investment landscape for the West of England.

My name is Will Dunlop and I am a post-graduate University of Bristol student, soon to complete my MSc in Economics, Finance and Management. I began my Scale Up Business Internship in December, 2017. In this blog I've shared some reflections on the internship that I just completed at Engine Shed.

‘Leadership capacity’ is mentioned by many scale-up founders that I speak to as an area of need – it’s also identified by the Scale-up Institute as the 3rd most significant challenge that businesses they survey face.

Business West have invited founders of tech businesses who are experiencing challenges securing office space to sign an open letter which invites the public sector to make an intervention.

Last week PwC announced the 12 companies who will join them as inaugural members of the Scale South West Programme.

Scale-up Enabler: Q2 Update

14th February 2018

With 8 months of the initial 12 month contract complete, this blog shares insights into progress made, plans for the remaining few months and opportunities for collaboration.

There are a growing number of scale up support programmes in the West of England (and nationally) designed to help unlock funding, develop leadership skills and to plan for growth. This blog provides a single place to explore what's on offer.

Whether you’re moving from your home office to a co-working space or from a 6-person to a 20-person office (or bigger), the process is significantly different to finding a new home. With over 600 fast-growth companies in the West of England, and an even greater number of start-up businesses hot on their heels, I’ve asked some local experts for their ‘top tips’ for office relocation

The Scale up Briefing series has become a growing presence on the event scene in Bristol. On Wednesday 17th January, I invited scale up supporters and leaders to come together and consider how best to raise £1M or more in the region.

After a few months in post, it became clear that we need to be more informed about the great accolades and awards that our region receives. This blog lists a range of highlights over the last few years.

Yesterday I hosted my first event at Engine Shed – the inaugural Scale-up Pow Wow kindly supported by Smith & Williamson.

Scale up is a popular theme for events - particularly at this time of year. I've attended a few conferences and events over the last few weeks and these are my reflections.

In the original Scale up Institute definition, infrastructure takes into account challenges that are both digital and physical. In the West of England, we suffer with an acute shortage of suitable, affordable and available office space so this has become the focus for this work.

The Scale up Institute describes this challenge as being focused on selling into 'both government and large corporate companies' which is more difficult due to complicated procurement processes and the time taken to win a contract - and that's only after spotting the relevant contracts to bid for.

The leadership capacity challenge is felt most acutely by those founders not associated with an incubator or support system. Whether they are grappling with their own leadership development or recruiting their key senior hires into the business, this challenge has a few different interpretations which are explored here.

Long before the appointment of the Scale up Enabler in June 2017, access to investment has been recognised as a challenge for founders in the West of England. With close geographical proximity to London, it's often assumed that founders will court investors there and this takes them away from running their business at a pivotal time, for often an extended period.

Talent and Skills is often identified in the West of England as a significant challenge however, it has barely been mentioned in the scale-up interviews that have informed the scale-up project work.

After the first 4 months working as the West of England Scale up Enabler, I brought together a few reflections, an update on my progress and some ideas for the future.

Are you interested to find some peer to peer founder support? Read on to find out more about the various support organisations available in the West of England.

This article provides a snapshot of a conversation that has been going on in pockets across the region for at least 18 months including the nature of the problem, some of the solutions that exist and some ideas for the future.

Has your business grown more than 20% in turnover or employee numbers in the last year? Do you have plans to grow that quickly in the next couple of years? If you are, we would very much like to hear from you. The West of England region has ambitions to build the best possible ecosystem for scale-up businesses in the country. To achieve this, we need to know what your greatest challenges are, and what support or resources you need to overcome them.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the ScaleUp Institute’s latest report ‘SME Finance Monitor: The Scale-up Perspective’ which was hosted at the London Stock Exchange, these are my reflections.

In June 2017, Engine Shed, the West of England Growth Hub, Business West and the University of Bristol announced a collaborative project to explore and help solve the challenges faced by scale up companies in the region.